Jim Vallandingham maps racial divide in major cities using Mike Bostock’s implementation of force-directed maps:
Data is from the 2010 Census, at the tract level. The links are hidden, but each tract is connected to each of its neighbors. The lengths of these connections encode the disparity between racial make-up between neighboring tracts. So, if a ‘mostly white’ tract is connected to another ‘mostly white’ tract, then the connection is short. If a city had uniform proportions of races in each tract, the map would not move much. However, longer connections occur where there is a sharp change in the proportions of white and black populations between neighboring tracts. These longer connections create rifts in the map and force areas apart, in some ways mimicking the real-world effects of these racial lines.
Compare Jim’s maps with the catalyst — choropleth maps by Salon. Which do you think works better?